Thursday, November 30, 2006

Risky Business

From the womb to the tomb we are rated, ranked, labeled and tagged.

The APGAR score from one to ten is a determination of the vivacity of a live birth, based on the size, skin tone, and birth weight. In school, our intelligence quotient is calculated, SAT scores determine which schools we will get into, and as we enter the mainstream of the business of living, Credit Scores tell the tale of our dependability, habits, and worthiness to buy a car, a house, or get a job. Somewhere, a few years from now, a tag will be printed with my name and DOD, securely tied to my toe.

Now the US government has created a scoring formula to assess risk to air travelers. ATS is the acronym for Automated Targeting System, and it ranks you based upon where you’ve been and where you’re going, how you paid for your tickets, your motor vehicle records, trips in the past you took one-way…even the seating and in-flight meal preferences you’ve ordered in the past.

The government is going to keep your ATS score on file for the next 40-years, and unlike your credit score, which you can challenge, you not only cannot change your ATS score, you can’t even see it.

The Department of Homeland Security is defending the ATS as essential in spotting criminals and terrorists before they act. But the government may also decide your ATS score is essential to share with state, local, or even foreign governments for inclusion in hiring decisions or granting security clearances, licenses or contracts. Your ATS score could even be shared with anyone from private contractors to the Courts to Congress.

What if there's a mistake?

This week I did battle with the local County tax appraisal district, which inadvertently dropped my homestead exemption from The Clanton Hacienda this year. A simple error which could have cost me thousands, easily resolved with an e-mail and a fax.
I discovered the error when checking my real estate tax statement on line.

A couple of years ago, I noticed some erroneous reports in my TRW Credit Report file. A quick letter of correction, a reply for verification, and that was solved within 30-days.

I can’t check my ATS score.
You can’t check yours.
What if it’s wrong?

Earlier this year I rented a car one-way to Dallas. That same weekend, I flew one-way back to Houston. Does that make me a more likely risk of being a criminal or a terrorist?

I like to sit next to the window when I fly, preferably as far ahead of the wing as possible. Wonder what that makes my ATS score look like?

What if someone who IS a terrorist decides to buy a plane ticket using a fake name, say B. Clanton…or T. Kennedy?

Senator Ted Kennedy wound up on someone’s do-not-fly-without-frisking list when “T. Kennedy” showed up on a list of aliases used by known terrorists. It took the U.S. Senator three weeks to get his name off of the government’s then-secret black list.

I doubt my efforts to correct such errors would be slim to none…and Slim couldn’t leave town because he never got here.
His name was on the list, too.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Peek Behind the Scenes

Lock-down Mode, BizRadio Network Studios—We are hermetically-sealed in our studios this morning, doors closed tightly against any noise that might escape as we conduct our broadcast day at the BizRadio Network complex and deli. What we do that you hear on the air is magic—it’s theatre of the mind. How we do it, behind the scenes, is somewhat of a mystery to many, and at times a miracle to us.

We’re renting the studios from which we originate The Brent Clanton Morning Show from a company that sells airtime to the highest bidder. We bought the rights for three years, but must rely upon the ownership of the facility for certain creature comforts, like air conditioning, electricity, water, etc. And we operate at the somewhat whimsical pleasure of the manager in charge of this facility. Some things he’s done well; in other areas some ill-will has been created.

Which is why we’re now operating behind closed doors.
Radio is by definition a noisy prospect.
The phrase, “if it’s too loud, you’re too old,” has a corollary—if you are uncomfortable working around sound, you’re in the wrong business.

There are two radio stations originating from this facility; one of them does not even sign-on until the sun comes up. Meanwhile, my Producer, Buddy Cantu, and I, who have gotten up before the chickens, labor away by ourselves most mornings until just before 6am.

For the most part, the station across the hall is automated, with a few live shows from time to time during the week. The rest of the time, we at The BizRadio Network pretty much have the place to ourselves.
So why are the doors closed?

We might distract others, we are told.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it—does it make noise?
That’s a trick question.
When a tree falls, it does make a sound.
However, if there is no one present to interpret that sound—as a thud, a crash…or a noise—the event goes unnoticed.

We’re making sounds in the morning--cueing audio, uploading reports, previewing music, as well as the general chit-chat that is enjoyed between people who’ve worked well together for years. An open studio door is a necessity for maintaining a certain esprit de corps in any teamwork environment.

That’s disruptive when there are others around.
Is it, when no one is around?

So our landlord has imposed a lock-down on the studios of The BizRadio Network players, and Buddy and I must rely on hand signals, swinging lamps, and mental telepathy to communicate.
Even when the Landlord's not here, we’re expected to work with the door closed.

I think the imposition is unreasonable.
Buddy’s thoughts are not suitable for a family publication.
We go along to get along, but we don’t like it.

Would you?

Monday, November 27, 2006

A War by Any Other Name is Just as Deadly

What’s the difference between Civil War and Anarchy? That splitting of hairs now underway in Washington and the Media, with NBC News officially referring to the War in Iraq as a Civil WarPresident Bush says it’s not—it’s just anarchy.

Webster's defines Civil War as "war between geographical sections or political factions of the same nation."
Just in case those nuances are too subtle, Political scientists like to impose a tangible threshold of 1,000 dead as a metric establishing when a conflict has truly reached the status of Civil War. suggests five criteria that must be met in order for Civil War to exist: The contestants must
  • control territory
  • have a functioning government
  • enjoy some foreign recognition
  • have identifiable regular armed forces
  • engage in major military operations.
Given those parameters, well, no, it’s not Civil War, so it must be anarchy. No doubt the citizens of Iraq are scrambling for their score cards so they can tell the difference.

Friday, November 24, 2006

It Is What It Is

Acceptance is not a state of passivity or inaction. I am not saying you can't change the world, right wrongs, or replace evil with good. Acceptance is, in fact, the first step to successful action. If you don't fully accept a situation precisely the way it is, you will have difficulty changing it. Moreover, if you don't fully accept the situation, you will never really know if the situation should be changed.
--Peter McWilliams

I have a saying I use to sometimes describe situations that I might not like, but at the moment can do nothing about.
It is what it is.
That’s my acceptance relief valve. It allows me to accept what I am seeing, accept what I am dealing with, and move past the initial “oh, no!” factor that keeps many people from solving problems and resolving issues.

“It is what it is” does not mean things are locked in place. The acceptance of a quandary’s existence does not mean you can’t do anything about it—in fact, acknowledging “it is what it is” gives you a starting point from which you can collect allies, search out solutions, and measure your progress towards a suitable outcome.

Today marks the first in which the Chicago Board of Trade gold contract is open when the Comex division of Nymex is closed. The CBOT contract has become a serious competitor to the New York exchange within the last year by computerizing its business.
Commodities experts once believed entrenched futures markets cannot be displaced…that was before the computer came along.

Today could actually be an interesting day for gold in America.
If you are a speculator and wish to make a statement, today may be the day.
It is what it is.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thank You

The Inlaws’ Enclave, Huntsville—We’re basking in the post-Thanksgiving feast food-coma this afternoon. And it’s a fairly typical afternoon, likely being replicated across America in thousands of dens and living rooms, kitchens and gamerooms.

There’s a TV droning in the corner, families and friends are playing, visiting, kidding, and cajoling, and from the vantage point of this keyboard, just as many deserts are spread out as main meal entrees.

In the South, lots of pick-up touch football games are conducted in front yards, back yards, and vacant lots under a crystal blue sky and a dazzling sun. Nothing like November in Southeast Texas, when temps are in the 70’s.

Such scenes of contentment are not the norm in many parts of the world this November, 2006. As I write this (and you read it), there are many of our American brothers and sisters that are observing Thanksgiving in harm’s way in Iraq. Today at least 144 Iraqi’s were killed, and a couple hundred more were injured in three homicide bombings; the death toll is expected to rise.

Indeed, even in America, Thanksgiving this year is being observed by displaced families living in FEMA-provided trailer houses, or other places that are not there own. In some ways, they’re the lucky ones. Thousands more homeless Americans are spending today just like any other day on the street, hungry, cold, and alone.

There is much to be thankful in our household this Thanksgiving, as I approach the one year anniversary of successful cancer surgery. I am richly blessed with a job that pays be to do what I love, kids that are on their paths to success in their chosen field, and a patient and loving bride of 27 years who keeps things running smoothly. The terrifying possibilities I faced a year ago have helped me appreciate the finer nuances of life, and realize what life priorities truly are.

I appreciate each of you who listen to the show each morning, or down load the podcast later in the day. I am fortunate to work with a fantastic team of support personnel, gifted creative talents, and management that is willing to try new ideas and push the envelope, just because we can.

Thanksgiving covers a multitude of scenarios and situations. The important point to remember is to remember to be thankful, regardless of the circumstances.

The Apostle Paul wrote about this great human dilemma that has existed for centuries:
“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

So from what ever corner of the world you’re reading this, and what ever your circumstance, it is my hope that you are able to savor contentment, and cultivate gratitude for the good things in your life…and even things in life that aren’t so good, but force us to rise above and excel beyond.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Censure or Censor?

Does NewsCorp’s cancellation of the ill-conceived O.J. Simpson what-if tell-all project amount to censorship?

Don’t misunderstand what I am suggesting:
I think the idea of O.J.Simpson writing, producing, and profiting from telling his side of the story of the murder of his wife (wasn’t that what the trial was supposed to have established??) is one of the most reprehensible, repugnant ideas to come down the pike.
The very idea is worthy of being buried…but was it the publisher’s place to do that?

Should not the book-buying public have had the ultimate decision on whether or not Simpson’s make-believe-version should survive?

Realistically, that may have been the very thing that killed the project, no pun intended. Most likely, NewsCorp saw the handwriting on the wall, and axed (again, sorry) the project before they lost their shirts on the deal. No fault for avoiding a failure.

But points off for the flawed thinking that even considered the idea would have had any merit.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Cruisin' for a bruisin'

What is the deal with all the hoopla over Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’s wedding over the weekend? I will confess to a certain affinity for Holmes, and Cruise has been an entertaining personality—on and off the big screen—but let’s look at this in realistic terms:

It’s his third marriage, her first;
both have been tabloid fodder with their respective liaisons with other partners, Cruise while still married to another; they show up for their wedding with their illegitimate daughter in tow…

When I was growing up, such a public display of immoral behavior would have never occurred, and careers were ruined over adulterous behavior.

Perhaps it's just Life imitating Art, if you consider Holmes’ career was made playing the femme fatale on a teenage slut-opera, Dawson's Creek.

But that’s the way it’s done these days…
Exactly my point.

Did you ever stop to think how our impressionable society might behave if the icons it perceives as role models adopted a higher standard of morals?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Pentagon Bull

The Pentagon is reclassifying homosexuality from a mental disorder to a “circumstance” as it relates to retirement practices. Other “circumstances” in this Pentagon category include the fear of flying and bed wetting.

The shift in categorization is in response to criticisms over the Pentagon’s inclusion of homosexuality in the same realm as mental retardation and personality disorders. So now it’s just a “circumstance.”

This whole gender-bending trend in western society is quite troubling. I blame Mattel for hastening the wider acceptance of this “circumstance” as the norm, through their continued proliferation of anatomically-vague Barbie and Ken dolls. See user instructions for details.

There are other practical considerations with which society must soon reckon: in restaurants, which wash room to use? Outback Steakhouse, for example, has designated its facilities for “Sheila’s” and “Blokes.” Pappasito’s labels its washrooms for “Caballeros” and “Damas.” Might they have to come up with a third, gender-indefinite designation?

(In researching this notion, it was interesting to note that even with Australian slang terms for gay people, there is still a gender differentiation: gay men are “poofters,” gay women are “ponces.”)

There are other implications that are more far-reaching. While the English language is very descriptive, it is basically gender-neutral, as opposed to German or Spanish, which have masculine and feminine tenses for all sorts of things. Spanish nouns will clue you as to their gender with the “la” or “el” articles, or the “-as” or “-os” endings.

Following this logic, a “gay caballero” could be technically incorrect, under the Pentagon’s classification system. Might the more accurate usage be “gay caballera?”

This whole notion was inspired by a mis-use of the noun for “bull,” as in Red Bull.
I erroneously toasted my Producer, Buddy Cantu, in poor Spanish this morning by raising my blue and silver can of energized nectar by proclaiming, “La Toro Roja!”
Spanish speakers will immediately recognize this as a red, gay bull, syntax notwithstanding. The proper usage should be “El Toro Rojo.” My apologies to Buddy and the makers of Red Bull.

I still don’t have an answer for properly labeling androgynous washrooms. Perhaps the Pentagon will provide a study…at taxpayer expense, of course.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

United "Healthcare" that's Hard to Swallow

Which would be more cruel?
Finding out your heartburn medicine is no longer covered by your health insurance (thus creating an onslaught of gastric acid), or your blood pressure medication has been dropped from the official formulary (and you can guess the appropriate reaction.)

I have neither ailment.

However, either could develop over the saga of dealing with United Healthcare’s prescription drug plan, which has decided to drop coverage of Nexium last month with little fanfare.

I found out about that when I went on line to re-fill my prescription electronically, and was met with an ominous message:

“Effective September 1, 2006, Nexium (esomeprazole magnesium) may cost you more or may no longer be covered under your pharmacy benefit. Before you fill your next prescription, click on ‘Price a medication’ in the left hand navigation on to check the pricing of your medication or use Savings Advisor to identify lower cost alternatives.”

For those of you who have been through the ordeal of treating reflux or indigestion, you know that not all “alternatives” are realistic. Just as each of us have unique chemical characteristics, so do these medications.
They don’t all work on everyone in the same way.

I called up 365 Well Street, and “Shamiqua” told me that she couldn’t tell me why they stopped covering Nexium on my plan, because I’d been sent a letter explaining it.
That makes total sense.
You can’t tell me the answer to my question because you sent me a letter?

Shamiqua was able to give me the names of five other medications, almost as colorful as her name: Omeprazole, Acifex, Protonix, Prevacid, and Zagaret. She said it was most likely that coverage for Nexium was dropped because it was now available over the counter.
No, it’s not.
According to the CVS pharmacy I checked with, you still have to have a prescription for Nexium.
Shamiqua said, well, I’d just have to talk to United Healthcare.

Undeterred, I called United Healthcare for answers.
My first try resulted in being routed back to Shamiqua's department via electronic phone mail hell, although I didn't wait around to speak to her or one of her sistahs.

(Who ever invented automated phone systems should be shot. United Healthcare’s phone system either offers useless choices, or hangs up on you. The ordeal is guaranteed to produce symptoms worthy of treatment with other prescription drugs.)

So I called the local Houston United Healthcare office. My thinking was, a real, human on the phone could answer my questions, or at least direct me to a better source.
Not so.
The woman was nice, but clueless.

She routed me to United Healthcare’s HR department, with an electronic phone prompt which refused to budge until I gave them an employee number. Not having such, I outwitted the phone system by outwaiting it, and was routed to another live person…who gave me the number to United Healthcare’s corporate offices (which was not available on their website, by the way; I'd checked that first.)

I dialed Corporate’s toll-free number, and told the real, live operator I needed to speak with the person who makes the decisions on which drugs are covered and which are not covered by their prescription plan.

“You need Formulary,” she said, and rang me through to—you guessed it—another voice mail.

Are you keeping up? Three different calls to three different numbers, so far.

The voice mail identified it’s owner as Joe Stahl, who was out, but would return my call shortly, if only I would leave my name and number.
I did.
He didn’t.

So I called back later in the day.
Joe has an assistant, Nicole, who’s voice mail also kicked in to capture my message in crisp, digital sound.
She’d call me back.
She hasn’t.

Last night I received an e-mail from United Healthcare, with the same nebulous, benumbed response I’d gotten during the day, telling me that I could “purchase this medication locally at 100% of the price off-plan.”

Duh. Ya’ think?

The only think more troubling than the insipid, bureaucratic mindlessness these companies exhibit is the insulting, condescending tone they take with their customers.

Here’s the deal.
United Healthcare is in business to make money, not provide you with quality healthcare. That they do most of the time is incidental; don’t be fooled. They’re in business to make money.

Through the process of elimination, United Healthcare has decided that the best medications to take are those that cost the least, not necessarily those compounds which might work the best.

That’s why instead of Nexium, I can either buy something over the counter, or ask for a prescription for something that sounds like you could name your next child.

Too bad the bean counters at the insurance companies know better how to treat me than my doctor. All that education in medical school must have been just a waste of time and money.

If you want to practice medicine, just become an accountant for a health care provider.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Working things Out

What are they paying you to show up for work this morning? According to Dallas Fed President Richard Fischer, welders in Texas are being paid $25/hour, with a $100 bonus for showing up, and a bonus for completing the work.

Excuse me--but what are they being PAID for?? What are these guys—welders or NBA players? Next thing you know, welders will have agents.

“Eruh, my client prefers to weld pipe from the outside, not from the inside out, and wants fresh cream cheese with his bagels and Starbucks. Don’t forget the blue and green M&M’s… And be sure the company limo comes 15-minutes early so he has time to get his steel toe boots shined…”

I am definitely in the wrong line of work.
Please pass the acetylene tank.

Don’t you be spewing none of that Spanglish in public in Farmers’s Branch, Texas…where the townspeople have approved an English-only ordinance, and if you rent property to an illegal alien, you’re in big trouble.

Why do I keep seeing scenes of the Town Meeting in "Blazing Saddles" running through my head? How would an English-only Ordinance play in Rockridge? Pretty good, I'd imagine.
Cleavon Little must be spinning in his grave...on a Gucci saddle.

The Farmer’s Branch City Council also unanimously supports the screening of everyone held in their jail for citizenship status.

Speaking of the Twilight Zone…how do you reconcile this: Iranian President Ahmadenejad says Israel will soon be destroyed and will disappear…

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Iran…

...and British Prime Minister Tony Blair is trying to make nice with Iran and Syria as potential partners in peace in reining in violence in Iraq and Lebanon.
Blair has either gone off his meds, or is using medicinal marijuana…

Monday, November 13, 2006

Immigrating Ideas

Could local legislation aimed at controlling illegal immigrants actually degenerate instead into sanctioned discrimination against all immigrants?

We’re all fed up with schools and hospitals congested with people who can’t speak English, soaking up tax dollars and resources that rightfully should be directed towards lawful citizens and our children. There are about 50 communities around the country that have not waited for the Federal Government to act on the illegal immigrant issue, putting into place ordinances outlawing renting property to illegal aliens, laws penalizing employers who hire illegals, and creating other, legal ways to retaliate against the tide of undocumented- aliens flooding communities from south to north and west to east.

Farmer’s Branch today will introduce a proposal to make English the official language in that community, and impose fines against businesses and landlords who commit commerce with illegal residents there. The population of Farmer’s Branch is 37% Hispanic.

What if we passed a law that suddenly made a third of the population suspect, just because they look like they’re not from around here?

What if we started to put laws on the books that basically forced all American citizens to prove we are entitled to our constitutional rights? Are we crossing the line from a melting pot of cultures to a catalytic-cracker of classes? Have we lost our minds?

There is a very simple solution to all of this mess, and it will require two basic concessions for everyone:

  1. Forget about rounding up all the illegals and deporting them back where they came from. There aren’t enough law enforcement personnel to identify, capture, and corral them; there isn’t enough jail space available to contain them—not without turning loose real criminals. Think about that for a minute: You want to release robbers, thugs, junkies, and a few Enron accountants, so we can put brown skinned people who speak a little funny and only want to work, into a secure cell to be shipped back across to Mexico?
  2. Forget about those xenophobic fixations against amnesty, accept the notion that people from all over the world still want to come to America to work and live and prosper, and simply add the illegals to our tax rolls. If that “makes” them legal, so be it.

I want to bust the myth that illegal immigrants cost more in public services than they contribute to our economy. Chapman University Law Professor Francine Lipman's work this year has revealed just the opposite: Illegal aliens in fact provide a net positive benefit to public coffers, because of the tax law's treatment of those in the country illegally, and those who are married to illegal aliens. They are ineligible for the Earned Income Credit and the Child Tax Credit.
Professor Lipman also reports most economists she’s interviewed (85%) have concluded that undocumented immigrants have had a positive impact on the U.S. economy.

Imagine what might happen were we to officially add these people to the tax rolls?

Think about this—there are 78-million baby boomers about to retire. Not all of us are just going to quit producing, but it’s estimated that it will take two workers to sustain the social contract for each baby-boomer who finishes their primary career. You think a few extra million people injected into the workforce might help temper that imbalance?

The Pew Hispanic Center estimated that by September 2006 the illegal population was about 13 million, with one-sixth of the illegal alien population--about 2.0 million people-- under 18 years of age. That’s a good start towards replacing those who’ll start leaving the workforce very soon.

It’s also a yellow flag to those xenophobes who would seek to control this problem by using exclusionary tactics: As the Hispanic component of our population continues to swell, the balance between majority and minority segments is shifting drastically. Those who once could depend upon certain political outcomes just because White Anglo Saxon Protestants were the majority should note how minorities are being treated. It is likely that within a generation WASPS will find themselves among the ranks of “the minority” as well, with the shots being called by representatives of a demographic once repressed because of skin color or surname.

The solution to the very problems we’re blaming on illegals could be achieved by tapping them as a resource instead of knocking them as a nuisance. Farmer’s Branch may be trying to get into the parade of other communities, marching to anti-alien sentiments, but the real innovators will be those governments who march to the beat of a different drummer…even a mariachi…and apply the positive possibilities to the problem.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Merry Stinking Christmas

Wal-Mart will be using the phrase “Merry Christmas” in stores, products and ads this year instead of “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.” Wal-Mart hasn't necessarily gotten a revelation from above as much as a recognition from here below that many religious groups last year boycotted retailers who dropped "Christmas" from their public vocabularies.

I don’t know which is more offensive: those who shun stores because they say “Merry Christmas” or those who do because stores use alternative, religion-neutral phrases.

Here’s an ugly little secret you will not hear in most media—Christmas—December 25th—was not Jesus’ birthday. Didn’t even occur in December. It may be the “reason for the season,” as some have liked to say, but the notion is historically inaccurate.

And I’ll share another deep thought with you, while we’re in this vein—and Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching: Why doesn't Thanksgiving get lot more consideration than it receives? You talk about a season with a reason—and there is a national need, a national hunger, I believe, for more public and private acknowledgement of gratitude for the largesse and success that our country enjoys.

We tend to mark Thanksgiving by sleeping late, cooking enough food to feed Sherman’s Army, gorging ourselves senseless at 2 in the afternoon, and spending the rest of the day in a food-coma in front of the TV set. Certainly we’re thankful, but we sure don’t act like it.

And the day after Thanksgiving should be named national “Let’s Go Get More Stuff” day, with the official launch of the Christmas shopping season, and a retail feeding frenzy that is unrivaled anywhere in the industrialized world.

The reason for the season is retail driven, ladies and gentlemen, don’t be fooled. I am not a Scrooge—but I fear for the collective soul of the country over the lack of thoughtful observance of the true intent behind Thanksgiving…which has become more of a day of Thanksgetting than was first intended.

How did we get off on that tangent?

Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day—a day on which the nation will honor the living and the dead who have served in our country’s military. Some businesses are closed today to mark Veteran’s Day, even though November 11 is tomorrow.

Do you find our system of holidays confusing? Why does Thanksgiving always fall on a Thursday, regardless of the date, but Christmas is always on Christmas, regardless of the day?

Ever wonder how long it’s going to be before the government moves Christmas to the Friday before—or the Monday after—and just leaves it there? Kind of like how the government has bastardized other notable days, like Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays in February, and we get an amalgamated President’s Day holiday on a Monday, somewhere between the two real dates. No surprise our kids don't know their American history.

Wonder how long it might be before Christmas and New Years are combined to a single “Festivus for the Rest of Us” on the last Friday of the year…A final, three day weekend before trudging back to the office for another 12-months of toil and worry.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if we celebrated holidays on their actual dates, and didn’t fudge an extra day off in the week when they fell on the weekend—like tomorrow’s November 11?
Why should the Post Office be closed today?
Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day—so close the Post Office on Saturday. Most of them are already closed on Saturdays anyway.

Why should Federal offices be closed today, when tomorrow is the real holiday?

That Veteran's Day falls on Saturday should be viewed as a bonus to taxpayers; Federal offices are already closed on weekends. Keep them open today to get the work done we pay them to do. State and Federal employees can rest on Saturday, with the rest of us, free to observe and respect Veteran’s Day without the distractions of traffic, jobs, and meetings.
I'd be thankful for that.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Political Ponderings

Welcome back Rick Perry to another, record-setting term as Governor…

Perry retains the governor's mansion by default, with less than 40% of the vote in a race that was fractured by distractions from an independent, a comedian, and a libertarian, in addition to a Democrat contender.

I would hardly call Rick Perry’s re-election a mandate from the people of Texas.

On Capitol Hill, the House goes to the Democrats…and the Senate may as well.

Nancy Pelosi is going to be in your face a lot as the next, presumed Speaker of the House…and as Democrats regain “control” of congress for the first time in a dozen years, I invoke the motto of Missouri—“Show Me.”

These are the same words I invoked when President Bush took office 6-years ago, along with the hopeful class of 2000. The operative words then were “show me.”

Republicans showed us, alright.
If anything, they’ve showed that neither party has a corner on the market for brilliance or stupidity. Now, as the baton passes from one party to another, so does the opportunity and responsibility for the newly elected or re-elected representatives and senators to do a better job in the future than they have in the past.

What are the odds of that happening?
Slim to none, in my view, because we have put into office professional legislators, not statesmen. We’ve put in proxies for special interests, not problem solvers for the people.

So here come two more years that will likely be punctuated by pointings of fingers and findings of flaws as the office holders revert to their primary life function—retaining office—and legislation possibly grinds to a halt as the balance of power shifts from just off to one side to just off to the other side. That might not be so bad after all.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.
--Theodore Roosevelt
There is much speculation and anticipation being expended over the results of today’s polling. For many, this IS Christmas, July 4th, and the first time you had sex, all rolled into one SuperNova event.

It is the fuel for the furnaces of ambition, stoking the fires of personal appointment and political achievement. The show is enthralling for some, sickening for others. But to put it all into perspective, ask yourself: Regardless of the outcome, what will your life be like tomorrow?
Better or Worse?

Bruce Barlett published an interesting analysis on what to expect after the election, suggesting that if the Democrats don’t make a sweep today, they might as well roll up the sidewalk in front of Democratic National Headquarters. Would anything less than a decisive Democrat victory suggest the financial and geographic advantage of Republicans is more than the Democrats might be able to overcome well for years to come?
A lot can happen in two years.

An interesting spectacle will be how the moderate and conservative Democrats in Republican states are treated and managed by the majority in power. Barlett foresees the assembly of a coalition of conservative Democrats who with Republicans end up running the House despite possible Democrat control.

Most spectacular might be how Nancy Pelosi becomes the lightning rod for Republican attention, much as Newt Gingrinch was the Democrats’ whipping boy.
Can’t beat ‘em, flog ‘em—or at least keep the spot light on Pelosi who is never at a loss for controversial statements.

Does Republican control of the White House necessarily translate into control of the national agenda? History has shown Republicans to be adept at getting things done from Pennsylvania Avenue, despite Democrat majorities on Capitol Hill. Don’t forget, King George II is still the President, and the power of the veto remains in his realm. And the past six years of congressional filibustering by the blustering Democrats have been great role models for Republicans to use to turn the tables, if necessary.

So the results of today’s elections are not foregone conclusions. The pursuit of the goal is one thing; knowing what to do with it is quite another proposition.

My son was quite the “player” with the cute girls in high school. He loved the thrill of the chase. Didn’t quite know what to do once he’d “caught” the object of his affections; but getting there was a lot of fun. In many ways, some politicians are like that.

The thrill of the campaign, the glow of the spot light, and on the morning after the election, the deer in the head lights look. “I won?”

So regardless of which party emerges “in control” tomorrow morning, will they really be in control?
Control of what?
Republicans will still have a lot of sway over Democrat ideas…and the unspoken reality is that for those who either retain or ascend to power, the clock will be ticking, and the whole world will be watching (or at least their constituents) as they take on the mantle of responsibility.

The best we can hope for is Congressional gridlock in Washington…and understand that today’s races are for many just a dress rehearsal for The Big Show in 2008.
Quoting from Bartlett’s thoughtful piece:

"Remember, too, that Democrats thought their Senate victory in 1986 marked the beginning of the end for Republicans. They quickly moved to investigate Iran-Contra and pass liberal legislation. But the hearings went nowhere and the bills were vetoed.

"Two years later, voters elected Reagan's vice president, George H.W. Bush, to the White House. I believe that they did so in part to put a check on the Democratic Congress, as they did so often in the postwar era.

"Indeed, I think that Democratic control of Congress has the potential to rejuvenate Bush's presidency, just as Republican control gave new life to Clinton's."

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ready, Set, Go!

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone…The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.
--Lin Yutang

Mondays are good days to get your week organized, target your hits, and lay out your plan for accomplishing what needs to be accomplished. Actually, this process should start on Sunday evenings, in preparation for the week ahead. But it also requires a process of elimination to accomplish goals. There are some things you cannot—will not—be able to complete. Curve balls, interruptions, and unknown factors that disturb or distort your plan will always crop up.

When those things happen, the best course of action is to go around the obstacle, if you can, in order to stay on track for your primary goals. How many of those less-important details might be better handled by delegating to others, or simply sliding down the scale of your list of priorities?

There will be interruptions, changes in direction from your boss…changes in direction from your customers. Take them in stride. Anticipate as many of them as you can, and have a contingency plan in place…just in case.

Our motto behind the scenes at the Brent Clanton Show is “semper Gumby…” always flexible.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Rotten Apple

I am angry with Apple.
Way back in ancient times, when I bought my first iPod, it came complete with a charger, cable, plus a USB Cable so that I could manage my music library between my PC and my iPod.

The battery on my iPod was among those that were faulty, so bought a second charger to keep it operational at all times.
The charger came with a convenient connecting cable.

My Bride decided she wanted an iPod, too, so I bought her one. Thought it would be a good idea to get a second charger, too…only this time, the chargers, which cost north of $30, did not come with a connector cable.
Oh, no—those were another $30 as a separate purchase.
Sort of like buying a car with no tires.

Well, I got peeved at Apple, and put the cordless charger on a shelf, and after a time forgot about the company and my beef with them.

In preparing to take a trip recently, I thought it would be a good idea to have that extra charger, so I took the Apple unit to the retailer and asked to swap it for a similarly priced, non-Apple charger whose manufacturer had had the good sense to sell their charger equipped with a connection cord.

No soap—the retailer refused to make the exchange because I’d waited too long after the original purchase date. Well, it took me that long to stop being mad at Apple.
Sort of.

To spite Apple, I chose to buy the off-brand charger kid instead of making the more sensible (?) purchase of a $30 connector cord for the Apple chargers.

Retailers and manufacturers note: When you tork off a customer, the pain lasts a long time. It is very unlikely I will ever buy another Apple product.

Apple’s iPod has been phenomenally successful.
Unfortunately, their sense of customer service and value have degraded with that success. So it’s no surprise they have some worthy competitors in the MP3 player realm getting ready for a run at the 800-pound gorilla this Christmas. Might even replace my Apple iPod with someone else's product.

Yes, I have an unused iPod charger in the trunk of my car.
It does not have a connector cable.
You wanna buy it?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Road Rules and Kitchen Raids

I am originating The Brent Clanton Show from Dallas for the next couple of days, while I attend the national convention of the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society.
Travel always presents new challenges and opportunities, and sometimes a few surprises.

Not that I am nosy, but this morning I had to raid the kitchen of the offices of BizRadio1360, in the posh Rolex Building, in the fashionable northwest side of down town Dallas.
It’s always interesting to see what the staff in various workplaces will keep on hand.

There are the usual left-over supplies of soy sauce and fortune cookies from the last 6 deliveries of Chi-food, plastic ware, salt ‘n pepper packets, and (what would life be like without) Splenda.

These guys in Dallas like to live—and eat—high on the hog, too. Some pretty interesting boxed foods and tins of tuna, plus gourmet stuff, like pure-spun honey, and an item that caught my eye, crunchy peanut butter.

(Note to office manager at BizRadio 1360—Yes, I ate the remaining scraps of Peter Pan in that year-old jar...I’ll get you a fresh one later today.)

The first rule of office kitchen scavenging—it’s okay to eat their food, so long as you replace it.

The folks up here are a spirited group.
By that I mean they appreciate fine spirits from time to time…and apparently, fairly frequently, as evidenced by the half full (or is it half-empty) wine bottle on the counter. Isn’t that stuff supposed to be kept refrigerated after it's been opened?

Did you know that Fortune Cookies are best ingested when aged for at least 30-days in a dark kitchen drawer? The taste is mellowed, and a bit of a delicate bouquet emanates from the pouch when the cellophane seal is finally breached. I don’t know if the fortunes in fortune cookies are time sensitive or not, however.

And I’ll end with this philosophically rhetorical question: Is your fortune, as expressed on the slip of paper in a fortune cookie, pre-destined to be your fortune, and does it ring true whether you open the fortune cookie or not?

Meanwhile, I’m going to go for that banana in the bottom of the employee fridge before someone gets creative and turns it into pudding.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Seymore Hersh or Less

We could do with a little less of Seymore. Famed investigative reporter Seymore Hersh has been a long time critic of US military policy and procedures, as far back as the infamous Me Lai Massacre. He broke that story, and in so doing, was also credited for breaking the will of the American public to support the Johnson Administration’s prosecution of the Viet Nam War.
The rest is history.
One wonders if Hersh would like to see a little history repeated. The stakes this time around are higher.

I think criticism can be a good thing, if it results in positive change. Criticism for the sake of being critical, or for the purposes of promoting one’s own view without providing a realistic alternative, is not a good thing. And in some cases, it’s very dangerous. Criticism of some issues during wartime goes over the line into irresponsibility, and I think Hersh is crossing that line.

In Canada last week, Hersh told the crowd at the Media@McGill conference that the good news about the reign of King George II of America is that “tomorrow morning there’ll be one less day." Hardly a sticks and stones kind of comment, but it definitely puts Hersh in the sandbox with The Dixie Chicks and other loud-mouthed Americans with the poor taste to criticize their homeland while away from home.

Unlike the Chicks, Hersh is a serious, credible journalist, having broken stories about the secret U.S. bombing of Cambodia, covert C.I.A. attempts to overthrow Chilean president Salvador Allende, and, more recently, the first details about American soldiers abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

In some ways, the Abu Ghraib story needed to be told. But not the way Hersh is relating it—not with his endgame, which is only designed to encourage the enemy and defeat the spirit of our troops.

Hersh recalled during Vietnam, "our soldiers came back and they were reviled as baby killers, in shame and humiliation.” While that's not happening now, but Hersh told the Canadians there "has never been an [American] army as violent and murderous as our army has been in Iraq.”

That’s where Hersh doesn’t get it.
You see, War is not supposed to be a gentlmen’s game. That went out in the French and Indian War, when the traditional ranks and files of soldiers were decimated by a new kind of enemy, using Indian tactics of firing from concealed positions and wearing garments that blended with their surroundings.

The American military needs to be only as violent and lethal as the enemy it is fighting. Anything less will result in failure. Of all the critics and pundits on the War, Hersh should get that concept the best.